Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eddie Lizzard

Lynn and I wanted to give you an idea of the size difference between our two lizards. Lynn hasn't finished decorating hers yet as of Friday morning when I took these photos. When she is finished with hers she is ending me a photo so that I can post it for you here. I made the worsted weight version with Noro Kureyon #217. Lynn made the DK weight version with Tussock from Naturally, which is the intended yarn for this pattern.

A closer view of our size differences.

As I said yesterday, I had fun decorating mine. I started by needle-felting rings on his tail. I used a copper novelty yarn from Kiwi, and some leftover needle-point yarns. Needle-felting is fun and easy to learn, and the needles and kit are available at Kiwi Knitting. I find that I use my felting needles all the time on various projects. As you can see with the copper yarn, it will felt non-wool yarns as well as wool yarns.

After I finished with the tail, I needle-felted an orange stripe up his back. Then I decided it was time for something new, and embroidered the blue outline with a chain stich. A book with some simple embroidery stitches is all you need to get started. I find it adds another dimension to my felted projects, whether I choose to use it before or after I felt.

I also used the copper thread again to add some beading to his back. These copper-lined beads that I had in my stash were perfect for this yarn colorway. Beads are always a good way to add some glitz. Check out the bead stash in the shop, next to the buttons in the book and needle nook.

Finally, I cut a circle of felt that was slightly larger than the diameter of the eyes. I folded it in half and cut it into two pieces, and then used craft glue to attach them as eyelids. One thing to note is that the felt just sucks up the glue like nothing you've ever seen before, so be sure to add lots more glue than you think you will need. Press the eyelid in place and hold it there for a few seconds while the glue starts to set. We decided to hang Eddie on the wall in our dining room. I've already bought more Noro to make more lizards. Everyone who lives in the desert Southwest needs one of these.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Felted Gecko

This was a project that, for someone who has no time to knit, went very, very quickly. I would suggest that unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool dpn user you should ignore the part of the pattern instructions that suggest using dpns for this project. Use whatever method for knitting in the round that suits you best. I usually knit with 2 circs but didn't have a second circ on hand in the right size and whipped out my trusty dpns. For the body it wasn't much trouble but when you get to the legs it can get pretty fiddly. Just an FYI on that.

However, it was an easy pattern to knit. Later this week I hope to show you one of my tweaks, which is my favorite way to work short rows. There are a lot of them in this pattern in order to make the lizard body seem to be moving, and so knowing my easy, invisible short row method makes those far easier to do.

After he was knitted I put him into a zippered pillowcase and threw him into the washer to felt. When he was finished felting I blocked him by stuffing the body and head with two plastic grocery bags until he was dry.

The next day it was time to put in his eyes. This toy isn't going to a child, so I felt comfortable using attachable eyes on him. In fact, the eyes attach very firmly and would be almost impossible to pull out but I leave that choice to your discretion--you can always needle-felt or embroider eyes on instead.

First, get an idea of where you want the eyes to go by placing them in the head.

Move them around until you feel like the placement is going to work for you. Because Noro Kureyon doesn't felt 'hard' for me like all other yarns do I was able to follow a column of sts on either side to place them equally, although it doesn't look like they are equal in this photo.

Once you have the eye in place turn the fabric inside out and push the plastic ring firmly down over the shank of the eye stem. The eye stem has ridges on it that ensure that the ring cannot be pulled off of the shank--so once it's there, it stays. Be sure you have the eyes where you want them before you do this as there is no going back. The ring has a greater diameter than the eye does, this is why I feel it would be near to impossible to pull out afterward.

Now it's time to stuff him! I have made many stuffed animals over the years and for the first half of my stuffed animal career I was never happy with the results of stuffing - the toys were always lumpy. Then I met Elizabeth Wells through our Old Pueblo Knitting Guild. Elizabeth is the expert of knitted and stuffed toys, trust me. She makes wonderful knitted dolls and stuffed animals. So I grilled her!

Elizabeth advises that you buy the most expensive toy stuffing that you can. Toy stuffing is not very expensive anyway and it comes in bags that may look smallish but hold enough for many, many toys and will last you for years. So it is worth doing it right the first time. Get the good stuff, there is a difference.

Next, Elizabeth told me, shred the stuffing before you use it. Pull it all apart rather than stuffing it in in great wads.

Here I stuffed the tail, legs and head before stuffing the body. Pack it in well, slightly over-stuffing. As you sew the seam shut you may find that you need to add more stuffing to the toy.

Here he is with his seam sewn shut. Because his stitches are still visible I was able to mattress stitch him together.

And here he is finished...

But wait! Is he really finished? I don't think so!

Next time - decorating the felted gecko...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Odds and Ends

Am I a trendsetter, or what? Last week I talked about starting holiday knitting now, before the panic sets in. And then the summer issue of Knitty came out,and what do they feature? A whole host of Holiday Headstart patterns. Did I tell you or did I tell you?

One of the patterns that caught my eye especially was the Deadliest Crab. I'm a Cancer so I just really fell for this one, and I printed the pattern out right away. Then my husband came up with a great idea - knit it in Noro Kureyon. Hmmm... I was going to use stash yarns, and as we all know, any Noro in your stash is never without a preordained purpose, which meant that I had to buy some Kureyon in order to make the pattern. Gee whiz, what a shame.

But when I got to Kiwi and starting taking a look around at all the great new things in the shop (more on that later), I saw this great pattern from Fibertrends for Gotta Get A Gecko. I mean really, a match made in heaven. Felted lizards, and Tucson. We all need one, don't we?

I just have to make one. So the crab may be on the back burner for the moment, but the gecko is next on my list. Lynn was making one out of the yarn called for in the pattern, Tussock by Naturally. She tells me that it is a very fast project for her so far.

Lynn also wanted me to let you know that Berroco yarns are back. Unfortunately my camera battery decided to give up the ghost right after I started taking photos, so some of them will have to wait for another time. But one I leapt on right away was Berroco Sox Metallic. Each 100 gram ball has approximately 380 yards, enough to make an average pair of socks. The fiber content is 73% Superwash wool, 25% nylon, and 2% other - which I take to be the magical sparkly bits. Because boy, does this yarn sparkle! I'm looking forward to making these! Kiwi also has Comfort Sock, 447 yards with a 50/50 content of nylon and acrylic; and Sox, 440 yards with a fiber content of 75% Superwash wool, and 25% nylon.

Another great Berroco yarn in stock is Seduce. This stuff is gorgeous, and will make the most wonderful summer tops. Seduce has 40 grams per skein, and 100 yards. The fiber content is 47% rayon, 25% linen, 17% silk, and 11% nylon. It has a wonderful shimmer and the knitted fabric has wonderful drape.

Summer projects, holidays projects, great yarns and patterns. Life is good.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Knit Ahead

Every year around the first of July I like to start my holiday knitting. This is a hold-over from the twenty-something years that I worked in the salon industry. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve was an unending madhouse of 10 hour days and no time to think. Because I actually prefer to enjoy the holidays rather than watch them rush past in a blur, I got into the habit of starting my shopping and preparations for the next year's holidays on January 2nd. If I see something that I know someone on my list would like, I buy it and tuck it away. By the time the holidays roll around I usually have 3/4ths of my holiday shopping done, I have as much of my food shopping for my holiday party finished as is possible before Thanksgiving. This is not to say that I don't add to it all at the last minute, just as any normal human does (ask my husband) but trust me, I am a lot less crazy before the holidays this way than I would be otherwise.

If I plan to do any holiday knitting - and let's face it, I always do - then I begin my plan at the start of June. Begin with your list of special people that you like to knit for. Make sure that these are people who are going to appreciate your handmade gift. We have all heard the horror stories of the intricate, painstakingly knitted lace tablecloth sold at a yard sale for 5 bucks, or the Christmas stockings Granny made for each of her grandchildren that were given to Goodwill by the daughter-in-law. If I give a knitted gift to someone who does not immediately genuflect before me, then I cross them off of my knitting list right away. No point in wasting my time, money and talents again on those who don't appreciate what I am really saying when I spend 30 hours making them a $25 pair of cabled alpaca socks. Their lives and mine are happier when I just give them money or buy something from the mall. These people cannot be converted.

Once you have your list, start to think objectively. Can you really knit pullovers for 15 people between now and the holidays and not make yourself crazy? Maybe not all of them need something as involved as a pullover? Maybe not all of them need to be on the list? Remember: Quality beats quantity any time. Be ruthless in paring your list - they'll never know that they were crossed off or downgraded to an easier project in consideration of your available time and desired level of sanity.

Next I like to come up with a theme. One year I knitted mittens for everyone - felted mittens, fair isle mittens - in rainbows of colors and neutrals so that everyone in each family could pick out their favorites. Pack them up in a beautiful little basket and you have an unbeatable gift. The last two years I have knitted socks for everyone, and last year I added sock monkeys for my two sisters from the sock yarn leftovers that resembled my sisters in uncanny ways. One of my sister has knitted beautiful hats and scarves for everyone.

Think small and portable. Something that you can keep in the car for those times when you have to wait at the doctor's office, in line at the PO, school Mom at the playground, car-pooling and waiting for kids. Even just a few rows at a time are a few rows more than you had, and you'll find that your projects will be finished before you know it. Another advantage of small projects is that you don't have time to get bored - before you know it, your project is finished. It also enables you to buy a luxury yarn for your project that is a splurge, which makes the project more special - and more fun for you to work on.

If you set yourself a reasonable schedule of so many gifts knitted or crocheted per month, you can keep on track and avoid getting too far behind. I try to concentrate on one person per month, making and/or buying for that person in their birthday month, for example.

Knitting ahead also allows you time to track down a special yarn, getting your local yarn shop to special order the right yarns in the right colors for you.

Do you know a really clever knitter or crocheter? Are you afraid that they will scorn your less-than-expert efforts at making them a gift? Take heart, no one loves a hand-knitted gift more than a knitter does. No one else knows exactly how much that says. They aren't going to be picking apart your technique, and if they are the type that you suspect actually will, then get them a gift certificate to their favorite local knitting shop. They'll be over the moon at your thoughtfulness. Want to make it more personal? Buy them a special yarn for the type of project that you know they love to make - colorful sock yarn or luxurious lace yarn. That way they not only have the pleasure of opening your gift, but also the added hours of enjoyment making up a project that still comes from you.

Don't wait until November rolls around before you get started on your gift making process. Trust me, the holidays will be so much more pleasurable for you if you can sit back, relax and enjoy them with a smug smile, knowing that your gift knitting is finished.